Proposed changes to Clean Water Act will gut protections

This week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  released a proposal to dramatically cut back protections to wetlands and waterways that we all depend on for drinking water, fishing, and recreation. Your Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper says of this news, “This rollback of where the Clean Water Act applies is sold as undoing an Obama rule, but is really rolling protections back for many waterways we swim in, drink from, and fish in, to a time before Nixon.” 

Things to know about the proposed rule, from Southern Environmental Law Center:

• EPA’s proposed rule is taking away protections that were put in place under the Reagan Administration.
• The proposed rule will remove protections for thousands of streams and most wetlands – protections that have been in place for over 4 decades and are needed now more than ever.
• EPA’s proposed rule is disastrous for wetlands, which are critical to filtering our waters and buffering against storms and sea level rise.  Wetlands are vital to the South. Of particular note, while our communities are still recovering from devastating recent flooding events from Hurricane Florence and Michael, wetlands can help absorb floodwaters and lessen the height and speed of flooding–as EPA itself documents.
• We know thousands of smaller streams—a significant percentage of all streams— will definitely lose protections.
• EPA’s proposed rule adds new exceptions and expands old ones– exemptions for mining operations and waste treatment facilities, for example. Those exemptions have the potential to be extremely destructive

Your Upper Neuse Riverkeeper notes that, “of the streams that supply public drinking water systems, 56% are intermittent or headwater streams that are now in danger of losing all protections.” 

Your Riverkeepers are currently reviewing the proposed changes, and Sound Rivers is working with partners on plans to take action. There will be a 60-day comment period after the official proposal is published, and your voice will be critical in this fight. Check back here for action opportunities in the coming weeks!

More Information & Resources

EPA Notice

Southern Environmental Law Center Fact Sheet